Hacksaw Ridge is a part of the Maeda Escarpment on the island of Okinawa, Japan. During the end of the Pacific conflict of World War II, it was the scene of a 2-week struggle between U.S. and Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa. The battleground was steep and cave-ridden. The Japanese were positioned in caves and tunnels all over the ridge. The United States soldiers were forced to scale cliff-like terrain to get to the enemy and forced back down the same terrain while evacuating wounded from the battlefield and regrouping for the next push.
The Battle of Okinawa is often said to have been the deadliest in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It was also the last. Okinawa Island, Japan was a strong defense position for the Japanese Imperial Army. To defeat Japan, Allied Forces, particularly American, had to take Okinawa. In March of 1945, 182,000 U.S. soldiers and 1.300 ships approached Okinawa and readied for battle. Six months earlier, U.S. B-29 bombers attacked the capital of Okinawa-Naha-in five waves. They nearly destroyed the city, but that would not be enough to make the battle easy for the troops preparing to take Okinawa in March of 1945.
On April 1, 1945, the Battle of Okinawa began. There were more than 100, 000 Japanese soldiers defending it. They had strong defense positions, giving them something of an advantage over invading troops. They did not even bother defending the beaches when the United States troops embarked on their attack. The Japanese soldiers held their positions further inland, like on Hacksaw Ridge. Nearby islands were occupied by Japanese soldiers as well. These were taken by U.S. troops.
On April 12, 1945, nearly two weeks into the Battle of Okinawa, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt died of a stroke. This had to have been demoralizing for the troops. Nonetheless, the troops on Okinawa would eventually hear good news, but first they would move ever further inland while fighting off the deeply entrenched Japanese. On April 29, 1945, the 96th I.D. attacked Hacksaw Ridge. They continued the fight until April 29, at which time they were relieved by the 77th I.D. By that time, they had suffered more than 500 casualties. The 77th I.D. contained the most well known survivor of the struggle for Hacksaw Ridge–Medal of Honor Recipient, Desmond T. Doss.
The 77th I.D. fought for Hacksaw Ridge until May 7, 1945. Both sides suffered heavy losses and the fighting was as intense as the terrain. Nevertheless, the United States forces came out victorious. They took Hacksaw Ridge, eventually pushing beyond and winning the Battle of Okinawa. Corporal Desmond T. Doss risked his life to go in and remove the wounded and dead from the battlefield, repeatedly. He never once carried or fired a rifle during his ordeal.
The day after the U.S. troops took Hacksaw Ridge, the Nazis surrendered. The fight in Europe was, for the most part, over. The fight in the Pacific Theater was reaching a climax. It would eventually mean the end of the fight, but while troops in Europe celebrated, troops in Japan fought, died, killed and watched Japanese troops commit suicide rather than face capture. On June 16, 1945, Japanese General Ushijima committed suicide by seppuku.
It was not long before the Battle of Okinawa was over and won by the United States. However, the struggle in the Pacific did not officially end until September 7, 1945, four months after the struggle for Hacksaw Ridge.
Battle of Okinawa, retrieved 10/28/10, globalsecurity.org/military/facility/okinawa_battle.htm
Ryukyus, retrieved 10/28/10, ibiblio.org/hyperwear/USA/USA-C-Ryukyus/index.html